On the other side of the world, opposite Europe, New Zealand’s North and South Island extend over a length of 1600 kilometres. Endless beaches, fiords, fern forests and geysers, the magnificent mountain world of the Southern Alps, as well as endless pastures, open up a multitude of unique opportunities for nature lovers. Hardly any other part of our world offers so many different landscapes in a relatively small area. The spectacular landscapes and the species-rich flora and fauna are the focus of this journey.
The natural beauty of our National Parks is one of the most impressive experiences of this tour. A boat trip in Milford Sound will certainly remain unforgettable. Covering the best features of both islands you will travel in comfort and by your own paste. Your accommodation is waiting for you.
And it’s the perfect Honeymoon in New Zealand as well!
18 x breakfast, 2 x dinner
Tour & Activity Pack: (can be customized to suit you precisely - request here)
return boat transfer from Picton to your accommodation in the Marlborough Sounds
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The following summary lists driving information for each major driving day of your itinerary. Times and distances are based on ideal conditions without stops. Plan to take longer to allow time to explore and enjoy some stops. While in New Zealand we offer 24 hour support – details on how to contact us at any time will be well documented.
Welcome to New Zealand!
After picking up your rental car at the airport you will drive to your first accommodation. On the way you will encounter the „City of Sails“ for the first time, as Auckland is often called. Today you can drive to Mt Eden, an extinct volcano, from where you can enjoy wonderful views over the city. Or you can drive to the elegant suburb of Parnell and the port of Auckland. Afterwards you can either stroll along the harbour or stroll through the shopping malls of the city centre. A visit to the War Memorial Museum or the Sky Tower is also recommended.
We recommend dinner at the Brazilian Wildfire Restaurant. This restaurant, located at the port, offers a special culinary experience. If you prefer dinner with spectacular panoramic views of New Zealand’s largest city, we recommend a visit to the rotating Orbit Restaurant in the Sky Tower (all activities optional).
You leave the big city of Auckland early in the morning and drive over the Harbour Bridge along the Hibiscus Coast to Matakohe and can visit the popular Kauri and Pioneer Museum (optional). In the afternoon you reach the Waipoua Kauri Forest, where you will find giant Kauri trees next to the typical tree ferns. These are not only among the mightiest conifers on earth, but also among the oldest in natural history.
After a walk through the forest you continue via Opononi to the natural harbour of Hokianga. The strong westerly wind regularly leaves behind large sand masses, which pile up to impressive dunes at the entrance of Hokianga Harbour. Your journey continues to Paihia in the Bay of Islands.
Plan today as you wish. You can take a trip along Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga, the tip of the North Island. Or you can take a boat trip through the islands of the Bay of Islands, New Zealand’s subtropical paradise.
An interesting historical excursion is a visit to the Treaty House of Waitangi, where the peace treaty between Maori and the English was signed in 1840 and is still of great importance in the coexistence of both cultures.
We recommend the Dolphin Eco Experience. This tour gives you the opportunity to swim and snorkel with dolphins in their natural environment.
If you are lucky, you will encounter bottlenose dolphins, as well as other dolphin species, baleen whales, killer whales, seals, fish and penguins. You’ll also visit some remote islands and gain an insight into this historically important region of New Zealand (all activities optional).
After breakfast you say goodbye to your warm hosts. On your way to Rotorua we recommend a stopover in Matamata (optional). During a 2-hour guided tour you will discover the true Middle-earth here and visit the film set of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, better known to you as „The Shire“. During your tour you will see the Hobbit Holes, „The Green Dragon Inn“ and many other highlights.
Afterwards you will drive on to Rotorua. This region is not only the centre of Maori culture but also famous for its geothermal activity. Geysers, steaming lakes and rivers, bubbling mud holes and multicoloured hot mineral springs, known for their healing properties, can be admired here.
Today you spend the day in Rotorua. In Te Puia Thermal Reserve you will learn how thin the earth’s crust is here and how hot it is underneath. With all your senses you will experience colorful sinter terraces, eruptions of geysers, bubbling mud holes and the stinking vapors of sulfur fumaroles. You can also watch New Zealand’s most famous bird in the Kiwi House.
Alternatively, you can take the cable car up to a viewing platform and enjoy the panoramic view of Rotorua. In the evening we recommend a visit to a Maori village and marae (traditional Maori gathering place). Here you will be welcomed with a traditional greeting at the gate of the marae and afterwards you will experience Maori rituals. After the concert in the marae you are invited to a hangi, a traditional Maori meal cooked on heated stones in an earth oven.
As your continue your journey today you can make a stop at Kerosene Creek at the Kerosene Hot Springs. These natural, free hot springs consist of a stream, a 2m high waterfall and several hot pools in the middle of the forest (approx. 200m walk from the car park) about halfway between Rotorua and Taupo.
Afterwards your journey continues to Lake Taupo, which was formed about 2000 years ago by a huge volcanic eruption. Here, a stop at the foaming Huka Waterfalls or the geothermal park Craters of the Moon is worthwhile.
Afterwards you drive along Lake Taupo to the Tongariro National Park. This is dominated by three sister volcanoes Mt Ruapehu (2797 m), Mt Tongariro (1967 m) and Mt Ngauruhoe (2291 m), as well as a landscape of black ash, brown dust desert and mountain streams lined by native beech trees. Many Maori tales and legends surround the three mountains. In 1991 the national park was declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, and two years later also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Various scenes of the film trilogy The Lord of the Rings were filmed in the Tongariro National Park. Mount Ngauruhoe can be seen in the film as Mount Doom. You will stay overnight here with a view of the volcanoes, in Ohakune, at the foot of Mt Ruhapehu.
The three still partly-active volcanoes of the Tongariro National Park form the scenery of your drive along Desert Road. The drive through barren country, surrounded by peaks up to 2700m, brings you to the green, fertile farm areas of Rangitikei and Manawatu.
The journey continues along the Kapiti Coast to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. Here you can visit the parliament, stroll along the promenade or explore the national museum „Te Papa“ (entrance free).
The funicular will take you to the Observatory, Botanical Gardens and viewpoint over the harbour, while from Mt Victoria viewpoint you can enjoy a magnificent view of New Zealand’s capital. In the evening we recommend a visit to Zealandia. With a local guide you can go for a short walk through the park and see various animals, which only become active in the evening. With a bit of luck you might even see the kiwi, an endangered flightless bird and the national symbol of New Zealand (all activities optional).
In the morning, you will board the Interislander ferry with your rental car, which will take you to Picton in the South Island. You will travel across the Cook Strait and through the Marlborough Sounds, an area of drowned valleys created by the geological subsidence of a low mountain range. Steep ridges still bear witness to the original mountain range, which today are narrow peninsulas jutting out between deep inlets.
From Picton you will be transferred by boat to your idyllic accommodation in the Marlborough Sounds. Located directly on the waterfront, you will discover a world without streets and everyday noise, which guarantees pure relaxation. In this unique atmosphere you will enjoy a delicious dinner at the end of the day.
Accommodation: Punga Cove Resort
You will return to Picton by boat transfer and then continue along the east coast, heading south. You will first reach Blenheim in the Marlborough region. The viticulture in this region began in the 70s when Montana Wines was looking for new land. The composition of the earth, the high sunshine exposure, a long autumn and a cold winter are excellent conditions for first-class wine, especially Sauvignon Blanc.
Your journey then continues along the wild and romantic coast to Kaikoura. Here, sperm whales regularly appear, attracted by the rich food supply of the warm ocean currents. You can also spot fur seals lying on the rocks along the highway and, with a bit of luck, even dolphins jumping out of the water acrobatically.
Accommodation: Kaikoura Boutique Hotel
This morning you have the opportunity to join a whale watching tour (optional).
Afterwards, your journey takes you into the hinterland, along little used forest roads and over the alpine covered Lewis Pass through dense southern beech forests to the West Coast. On your way you will pass through the port town of Greymouth and a landscape characterised by grazing and forestry, as well as historic gold-mining areas.
You will then reach today’s destination, Hokitika, at the mouth of the river of the same name. The town is the centre of the processing of greenstone, the very hard New Zealand jade, which is transformed into beautiful jewellery here.
This morning we recommend the Arahura Greenstone Tour (optional). You go on a guided tour along the Arahura River in search of jade. Your Maori guide will tell you legends and stories of his people (Kati Wae Wae Hapu). You will also learn about the importance of greenstone for Maori. On your walk you are sure to find your piece of jewellery and can take it with you as a souvenir of your time in New Zealand. The tour takes about 2 hours.
Your journey continues to Ross, a forgotten old gold mining village. Ross is said to be worth 700 million dollars in gold. One more reason that this area attracts many adventurers again. You then continue on to the glacier region of the Southern Alps, whose highest peaks south of Hokitika rise abruptly to an altitude of 3500m.
As a natural weather barrier, the high mountain ridge is responsible for one of the most extreme precipitation regimes. Above the snowline, large ice masses accumulate, forming fast-flowing valley glaciers. The Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier – unique in temperate latitudes – reach down to an altitude of 300m above sea level.
This morning you can take a walk to Lake Matheson near the village of Fox Glacier (optional). This lake is also known as Mirror Lake, because in good weather New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mount Cook, is reflected in the water.
The drive continues through Westland Tai Poutini National Park and over the Haast Pass, the climate and watershed boundary of the Southern Alps. Past the high mountains of Mount Aspiring National Park and the deep glacial Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea, you will reach the fantastically situated holiday resort of Wanaka.
Accommmodation: Websters on Wanaka
Via Queenstown, New Zealand’s adventure capital, today’s drive takes you to Te Anau, the gateway to Fiordland National Park, New Zealand’s largest and most undeveloped national park. Fiordland is one of the best examples of true wilderness. In the west, 14 fiords penetrate deep into the primeval forests of a rugged alpine world like overlong sea tongues. Not far away, snow-covered mountain peaks rise up to 2700m above alpine grass plains.
Accommodation: Te Anau Lodge
Today you have the opportunity to take a trip to the famous Milford Sound. Milford Sound is the most accessible of the fiords and has been called the eighth wonder of the world. You will first drive along the spectacular Milford Road. At Homer Tunnel you often see cheeky keas, the only mountain parrots in the world. Once in Milford, you will board a boat which will take you on a trip along Milford Sound. The ship follows the course of the fiord and glides out to the Tasman Sea. Enjoy the wild romantic scenery, which is determined by almost vertical mountain walls.
Alternatively, a trip on the less developed Doubtful Sound is possible (all activities optional).
Afterwards you drive on to Queenstown. Due to its beautiful mountainous location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, this small resort has developed into the most popular tourist centre of the South Island.
In Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand, there is much to experience and discover. Today is free for you to explore.
Take a trip on the steamboat „TSS Earnslaw“ and cross Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak Station. Here you will also receive a grilled lunch on request and can take part in a farm tour. Alternatively, you can explore Queenstown’s wild hinterland by jeep, with an experienced 4×4 driver. Learn about the gold-digger past as you drive over rough and smooth through the rugged terrain of Skipper Canyon, New Zealand’s Grand Canyon.
Lord of the Rings tours to filming locations are also offered. Other recommended activities: Skyline Gondola, Shotover Jet and Dart River Safari (all activities optional).
From Lake Wakatipu your journey continues over the Lindis Pass (971m) through Mackenzie Country. In good weather at Lake Pukaki you have the opportunity to admire the magnificent glacial world of Mount Cook. Maori call this mountain Aoraki, the „Cloud Piercer“.
You will then drive on to Lake Tekapo. Here you will find the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has defied the barren, harsh climate of this area since about 1930. Built with local materials, it symbolises durability and strength. The picturesque view from the window behind the altar is particularly impressive. There you can admire the intense turquoise lake and the alpine mountains behind it during church services.
In the evening, we recommend the Earth & Sky Observatory Tour (optional), where you can experience the wonders of the southern starry sky.
Accommodation: Ranginui Bed & Breakfast
Today you will leave the three thousand meter peaks of the Southern Alps behind and experience a spectacular change of vegetation again. You will first reach highland farms, which differ from the lowland farms in terms of livestock farming. The journey then continues through Canterbury, the fertile heart of the South Island, where vast stretches of farmland stretch like a patchwork quilt. The final destination is Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island.
Here you can take a walk through the beautiful Botanic Gardens and visit the Art Centre. In the evening we recommend the Tram Dinner. Here you will dine in style on the restored historic tram, in an air-conditioned carriage, while you explore the city on a sightseeing tour (all activities optional).
Please drive to Christchurch Airport in time and drop off your rental car here. From here you can start your journey home or onwards. We wish you a good flight!